Sometimes, you have to wait until the opening bell before you know a fight is a sure thing. Mayweather – Pacquiao, for example, was so hyped, so demanded and so obsessed over that by the time it was actually announced (after it had been cancelled the first time around) many fans refused to get excited until the very week of the fight – and even then, it didn’t feel real.
Of course, that event was a one-off. But there is a pattern developing, one of expectation followed by familiar disappointment when good fights are rumored to be in the works before falling through. Is that our own fault? Do we set the bar too high? Maybe, sometimes. Being honest, none of us really know how difficult it is to balance the interests of rival promoters, sanctioning bodies, TV channels and whoever else is involved in a big title fight in the modern day and age, but it can’t be easy. Yet, that answer will never truly be good enough. There are fights to be made that have left fans gasping in frustration for having not happened already, and I go through some of them below.
Gennady Golovkin vs Saul Alvarez
The obvious choice. I believe the blame for this fight failing to materialize mostly lies with the Mexican, who flirted with the 160lbs division at a 155lbs catchweight for a while, yet avoided the bonafide middleweights throughout. After knocking out Amir Khan (a welterweight) he talked all the right talk about facing ‘GGG’, a fight the WBC endorsed, vowing to strip whoever pulled out of negotiations (Golovkin of his interim title, Alvarez of his world title) with the full WBC crown being awarded to the other. Negotiations began, but to no avail. ‘Canelo’ vacated, gifted the belt to ‘GGG’ and made a surprise move back down to 154lbs to defeat Liam Smith, earning the WBO crown for his efforts. Now champions at separate weights, this one is no closer I’m afraid.
Gennady Golovkin vs Billy Joe Saunders
Not nearly as offensive as Golovkin-Alvarez, but the principles are similar. Barely a week had passed after Saunders had wrenched the WBO title from Andy Lee last December before Golovkin’s team were trying to discuss a deal, despite Saunders publicly taking a break over the Christmas period. This, incidentally, is one thing not in Golovkin’s favour; he often appears desperate to sign a fight, rushing the negotiating period just so someone puts pen to paper (Martin Murray was announced less than two weeks after he defeated Marco Antonio Rubio). However, Saunders appeared to agree to his wishes, the plan being a voluntary defence against Max Bursak before facing Golovkin in the Autumn. Then the predictable happened: Saunders injured his hand and pulled out of the Bursak fight, but revived his interest in Golovkin after Kell Brook was battered in 5 rounds last month. Golovkin chose to negotiate with WBA mandatory challenger Daniel Jacobs instead, leaving Saunders to make his first defence against the unknown Artur Akavov later in October. A boring affair, but there’s still some life in this one, and it could be a goer for mid-2017.
David Haye vs Shannon Briggs
If ‘striking while the iron is hot’ is a truism, then both these guys need to strike soon. I like Briggs, and he still looks in fantastic shape. But he’s 44 years old, and has been fighting opponents several tiers below his former standard. David Haye once ruled the world and looked unbeatable, but that was 8 years ago when he was a cruiserweight. Yet both believe they still have what it takes to rule the roost, and after clashing at a press conference earlier this year the potential for a fight between them increased greatly. This week ‘The Hayemaker’ announced his next fight will be December 10th against a to-be-named opponent, prompting a storm of Twitter activity from the American. If that opponent isn’t cruiserweight rival Tony Bellew, then we could be in for an overdue showdown between them that will likely force one to retire, and the other to finally face the division’s best.
Roman Gonzalez vs Naoya Inoue
Now I’m just being greedy, but this one looks plausible. The two have been dominating flyweight and super flyweight respectively, with few opponents able to offer any real challenge to either man. And the good news is, they have gone a step closer to facing one another in a unification match, after Gonzalez moved up to defeat Carlos Cuadras for his WBC title. It was a gruelling fight against one of the top operators at 115lbs, but one that proved Gonzalez really is one of the greatest active fighters. Having ruled at flyweight, and now the winner of a world title in 4 divisions, there is only Inoue left to beat before his dominance over the lower weights becomes total. This is no easy task, however; the Japanese is a two-weight world champion himself, winning his first world title in his 6th fight and defeating all but two of his opponents by knockout. If a rematch with Cuadras isn’t in the works, a 2017 meeting between ‘Chocolatito’ and ‘The Monster’ would set the sport alight.
Some of these matchups might never take place – I would forgive anyone for thinking Golovkin-Alvarez is pure fantasy. But hopefully guys like Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev, who overcame various difficulties to stage a November bout that is by far and away the best fight of the year, will set examples for others to follow. If Mayweather-Pacquiao can still happen in the modern era, there is hope for any fight.